Ambassador Kröner and I had a half hour conversation yesterday and one of the things which came up repeatedly was his hope. His hope for the future. He claimed that he still had hope, even after thirty five years in the diplomatic service. I told him about my B-47 bomber experience and my astonishment that there hasn’t been an atomic war; that we have lived a precarious existence and a tiny mistake might have had civilization ending results. I said the situation was and still is grim. He said he totally agreed but that he still had hope.
He said that humans must have hope to continue living and without hope life is meaningless. I was reminded of Conan Doyle’s take on that subject and his belief that there must be life after death or this life is meaningless; and no God would permit that, and therefore there must be life after death. That was Doyle’s hope.
I very much like both of these people and their contributions to the vitality of the world are great and unquestioned but I can’t help feeling that their feelings of hope are phantoms. The image that comes to my mind for that kind of hope is that of a person about to have their head chopped off who is hoping that the executioner has a sharp axe and a good stroke. And then wondering if they have paid him enough to give a good clean stroke. And then hoping that they have. This strikes me as a futile kind of hope. Many religious people have a belief in a life after death where they will be in a heavenly place of endless pleasure and no pain. Who knows how many of them believe in something which can not be proven. Perhaps to them it doesn’t matter that it is a phantom but what does matter is the calmness that attends to a profound belief in an all powerful other thing to which they show respect. With that yielding of responsibility comes the release from accountability and one can be calm just knowing that those things are being taken care of by the “Father.” This is very much like Cesar Millan’s relationship with dogs – he becomes their pack leader and then they are calm. They are absolved of having to confront a dangerous reality and can just do as they are told and be happy. This relationship seems very similar to some people’s relationship with God, or Heaven, or afterlife, or hope that this world will continue functioning.
To me hope is intimately associated with a goal, a personal goal toward which I am progressing. When I have a goal and am making some sort of progress toward that goal I feel good; I feel as if I am accomplishing something. If we as humans need goals to have hope then it seems reasonable to create goals for ourselves and for those to whom we are responsible. Goals which can be consistently approached and achieved and rewarded for achieving. Thus the person’s life is meaningful and filled with hope from one moment to the next by moving from one goal to another goal and having some satisfying reward when they reach the various goals.